Neymar in dreamland after scoring double against Croatia
Neymar’s remarkable international achievements reached new heights as Brazil’s superstar played a starring role in the World Cup hosts’ 3-1 win over Croatia in the opening game of the tournament.
The 22-year-old Barcelona forward scored twice – he now has 33 goals for his country in only 50 caps – with Oscar getting the third after Croatia had taken an early lead through Marcelo’s own goal.
Neymar admitted he had had a dream start to the World Cup.
He said: "I think I am happier than I ever dreamt, to start with a victory in the World Cup such as this.
"The whole team deserves praise for being able to keep calm and turn things around."
Neymar may have stolen the show, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari hailed the impact of Chelsea midfielder Oscar.
There have been doubts expressed in the Brazilian media about 22-year-old Oscar’s form, but Scolari insisted he had never lost faith.
Scolari, who guided Brazil to be world champions in 2002 and has never lost a World Cup match with the country, said: "Neymar got man of the match, but if there was a second award it should go to Oscar.
"Our statistics after the game shows he was the one who made the most tackles, and made lots of dribbles and crosses – he was our most creative player on the right.
"He was fantastic and that’s the kind of player he is and I have always believed in him.
"Any doubts came from your side [the media]. His level may have dropped but I never lost belief in him."
Neymar’s second goal came from a controversial penalty, Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura pointing to the spot after Brazil striker Fred went down despite being barely touched by Southampton centre-back Dejan Lovren,
The decision was described as "ridiculous" by Croatia coach Niko Kovac, who added that none of the billions watching on TV saw it as a foul.
However, Scolari said: "Millions didn’t see the penalty? The referee did and he said it was a penalty and they are the ones that must decide.
"We also think it was a penalty. I have seen it 10 times and I think it is a penalty."
Kovac warned that the World Cup will turn into "a circus" if referees do not improve.
"I don’t think anybody, anywhere in the stadium saw this as a penalty," he said. "If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties. I think 2.5billion people watching on TV saw this was not a penalty.
"This was ridiculous and if we continue in this way we will have a circus.
"Fred is an 85kg man and I don’t believe he can be brought to the ground in such a manner.
"I cannot blame Fred at all – everyone tries it on, Like it or not, this is part and parcel of football. What I want is for referees to stick to the laws of the game and apply them equally to both teams."